Braised Pork Shoulder Breakfast Tacos
Though I’ve done so in the past (I know; bad, bad Lauren!), I just can’t bring myself to call these braised pork shoulder breakfast tacos “carnitas”. I didn’t slow cook them in lard, and sort of cheated, if I’m being honest. Because really, that’s just what braising is; joyous, minimal prep, and then shoving the meat in a dutch oven with some liquid, and just let. it. go.
I watched nearly the entire web series The Guild (highly recommended if you’re an internet nerd, and well, you’re reading this blog, so I strongly suspect that you might be) while I was waiting for dinner to be ready.
On Sunday, all I knew is that I had 1.5 lbs. of pork shoulder to use, and scrambled eggs + sweet, spicy, porky goodness sounded like total win to me. The great thing about braising pork shoulder is ultimately it’s versatility; stuff it in a taco, make a casserole with it, serve it over rice or just eat it out of the Tupperware the next day.
I wrote the recipe for a larger amount of pork (because most people will have a 4-6 lb. pork shoulder to work with), but what I like to do since we recently invested in our KA meat grinder (on another note, grinding meat has become somewhat relaxing in a way), is to buy a 10-12 lb hunk of shoulder from our favourite meat shop and break it down into 1-2 lb. freezable portions, so that I’m never rarely overcooking and thus, boring ourselves with the same leftovers for days. This amount (1.5 lb.) of shoulder easily made 8-10 breakfast tacos, which was perfect for 2 nights of dinner for 2 people.
- 4-5 pound pork shoulder roast, cubed into 2 inch pieces or so
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 Tbsp chipotle (or ancho, or whatever strikes your fancy) chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard seed
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (depending on heat preferences)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 12 ounces good ale or darker beer
- zest of 1 lemon (or oranges, or limes)
- juice of 2 lemons (or oranges, or limes)
- Chipotle Chiles in Adobo (to taste; I used 2 of the chiles and about 1/8 cup of the adobo)
- enough good quality chicken stock to cover the meat
- Scrambled eggs for each taco
- Corn or flour tortillas
Combine the salt, black pepper, chili powder(s), cumin, cayenne, paprika, sugar, and mustard in a bowl large enough to accommodate the pork shoulder.
Toss each piece in the mixture to coat evenly, gently pressing the rub into the meat. Let the meat rest for about 20 minutes at room temperature.
Heat a large enameled dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when it’s barely glistening, add the diced bacon. Continue to cook and stir frequently until the bacon has rendered all (or most) of it’s fat and become a bit towards crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper (or paper towels to those of you who don’t randomly spell words with an unnecessary ‘U’) to drain.
As for the rendered fat, remove the vast majority of it and reserve for the next couple of steps, leaving just enough in the bottom of the dutch oven to brown the pork shoulder.
Over high heat and in batches, sear the pork shoulder pieces until brown; about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the pork and set aside on that same plate lined with kitchen paper (or a second plate if you have a LOT of pork). When all of the pork has been seared, add the onions to the pot, and more rendered bacon fat if you need it and cook until the onions are a bit translucent. Add the chopped garlic and stir until fragrant.
At this point, there should be loads of fond (browned bits of goodness) in the bottom of the pot. Add about a cup of the chicken stock, all of the beer, lemon juice, and zest to the pot, and bring to a simmer, remembering to scrape up all of those delicious bits of fond.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
When your liquid is at a simmer, add the pork and the bacon pieces back into the pot, as well as the chipotles (roughly chopped) in adobo. Add more stock until you’ve just covered the pork and bacon. Covering your dutch oven with the lid tightly, braise the pork for 3-3 1/2 hours, until meat is falling apart. Turn the pieces of pork over a few times at about 1 hour intervals.
When the meat is exceptionally tender, pull it out of the oven and remove the pork from the pot in a clean bowl, cover tightly with tinfoil and set aside. Over medium high heat, bring the rest of the sauce to a simmer, reducing it at a low simmer for about 30 minutes. While you’re reducing, try to skim as much fat off the top of the liquid as possible, it will reduce the greasiness of your carnitas.
When the sauce is reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon, reduce the heat to low, and remove the large pieces of fat from your pork and returning the tender meat to the reduced sauce. Shred the meat into the sauce, and if you have any of the sauce remaining, save it for another purpose.
When your meat is finished cooking, scramble a couple of eggs; I like Gordon Ramsay’s method for scrambled eggs. Dice up some tomatoes and onions, maybe make a little Guacamole; chop up some cilantro and crumble a little queso fresco over the top of the pork. Add a delicious freshly made tortilla and nom down!